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Public Benefits: What should I know about the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program?

I’ve heard that families with children who qualify for free or reduced priced meals at school may receive food assistance benefits.  Is this correct?

Yes. The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program gives families extra money for food if their child(ren) would normally get free or reduced-price meals at school. This program started during the 2019-2020 school year, continued through the 2020-2021 school year, and has now been approved for the 2021-2022 school year  The first P-EBT benefits for missed days in August, September and October 2021 should be issued by the end of November.  Learn more here.

My child never received free or reduced priced meals.  Will we still receive the new P-EBT benefits?

Maybe.  Nearly 1,000 schools in Ohio are considered "community eligibility" schools where all children have access to free school meals.  This includes many metropolitan school districts, including Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati public schools. EVERY child in the school district is eligible for P-EBT, even if your family’s income would be too high if applying for SNAP or reduced meals directly.

Do I need to apply for P-EBT and how do I receive it?

You do not need to apply if your child’s school is a “community eligibility” school OR if your child gets free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. If your child’s school participates in the National School Lunch Program but you have not applied for free or reduced price meals for your child, you can apply with the school. If you are not sure if your school participates, you can check this database.

If your family already gets SNAP, the benefit will be added to your Ohio Direction (EBT) Card.  If you previously received an “OHIO P-EBT” card, the 2021-2022 benefits will be issued to that card.

How can I use these benefits?

These benefits can be used to buy grocery items (not including prepared hot meals, restaurant food, pet food, or non-food supplies) at grocery stores and retailers that accept the Ohio Direction Card (also referred to as an EBT card).   Unused benefits will rollover month-to-month and must be used within 365 days.

I am not eligible to receive SNAP usually because of my income or immigration status.  Will I still receive P-EBT benefits?

Yes.  If your child normally receives free and reduced meals at school, you will still receive P-EBT. Receiving P-EBT has no effect on immigration status and is not considered in a public charge determination. Note that all families with children attending the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will receive this benefit.

For more information about P-EBT, visit If you have questions or concerns, please call the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services P-EBT hotline at 866-244-0071 or email

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